Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed an executive order that lays out an ambitious plan to integrate generative AI technologies into state operations.
The order distinguishes between Generative AI Technology — which is capable of creating new content based on large data patterns — and High-Risk Generative AI Systems that could potentially impact public safety or fundamental rights. This distinction is crucial as it steers the application of AI in sensitive areas such as biometric identification, health care and law enforcement.
Under the order, Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech) and the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) are tasked with developing guidelines based on national standards and addressing critical topics such as safety, algorithmic discrimination and privacy. The guidelines will aid in the procurement and use of AI technologies, ensuring vendors adhere to stringent risk-management frameworks.
The executive order also places emphasis on education and workforce development. AI technology is set to change the nature of many jobs, and Washington plans to be ready to utilize its benefits and reduce negative consequences.
For example, by January 2025, training plans for state workers on the use of generative AI will be established, underscoring potential benefits, and addressing risks such as automation bias, which is the tendency of humans to over-rely on or put too much trust in automated decision-making systems. This can lead to situations where humans ignore or dismiss their own judgment or contradictory information, even when it’s correct, in favor of the automated systems’ suggestions or decisions. In the context of AI and other automated systems, the bias can lead to errors, overdependence on technology and a decrease in human skill levels.
Collaboration between the Office of Financial Management, WaTech, and educational boards will evaluate AI’s impact on the workforce, aiming to craft strategies to offset any adverse effects and enhance worker competencies in this new technological era.
The order also calls for accountability and inclusivity in AI, directing the Office of Equity to oversee the development of a framework that ensures AI’s benefits are shared equitably. By December 2024, WaTech will release guidelines on risk assessments for high-risk AI systems, leveraging existing security and privacy frameworks.
Washington’s initiative is one of several national efforts to use AI effectively, safely and ethically. The White House has published an AI Bill of Rights blueprint, while the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s (NIST) a framework to better manage risks associated with AI.
Other states are following suit, with initiatives that reflect a growing consensus on the need for a cautious yet proactive approach to AI. For example, last year California Gov. Gavin Newsom released an executive order intended to, “deploy GenAI ethically and responsibly throughout state government, protect and prepare for potential harms, and remain the world’s AI leader.”
The Virginia General Assembly is debating the merits of HB 249, which calls for the creation of a thorough framework outlining the application of artificial intelligence by law enforcement agencies, along with a standard policy to steer the utilization of machine learning technology within criminal justice systems by 2025.
New York has released its Artificial Action Plan, a guiding document with 37 core initiatives for the development of regulation and implementation of AI technology throughout the state. New York is already pioneering several integrations of AI technology and has an AI chatbot deployed on the MyCity Business platform, a service which helps families access information about available childcare.
These state-level actions complement federal policies, illustrating a patchwork of AI governance that is emerging in the United States. Yet, there is a common thread — ensuring that AI serves the public good while safeguarding individual rights and societal values. And governments are not the only institutions looking to guide the adoption of relevant regulations. Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) formed a committee that has been releasing papers on guiding U.S. AI policy.
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